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Support for Veterans

  • News Image
    Members of SUVA stand behind flags they placed in front of the chapel to mark Veterans Day in 2012.
  • News Image
    Shannon Johnson, the current president of SUVA, stands next to a display she helped put together that shows photos of faculty, student and staff veterans at Southwestern.
  • News Image
    Faculty, staff and student veterans gather for a flag-raising prior to the 2012 Veterans Day Breakfast.
  • News Image
    Student veteran Arun Jacob helps raise the flag in front of the Campus Center to mark Veterans Day in 2012. Helping him are staff member and veteran Ruben Torres (right) and Torres' brother in law, Barry Mitchell, who is an active duty service member at Fort Hood.

Student veterans find camaraderie through new organization on campus

Most students would have trouble making it to a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting, but some students who recently gathered for breakfast in the Campus Center are no strangers to early morning hours.

The students are members of the Southwestern University Veterans’ Association (SUVA), a new student group that is starting to have a presence on campus. The organization is open to student veterans or dependents of those in the military who are attending Southwestern on their parents’ GI Bill benefits.

“We are a very unique minority on campus that shares common experiences,” said Aaron Smith, a former navy medic who hopes to go to medical school. “Southwestern has been phenomenal at helping us get this organization running and supporting the veterans on campus.”

Roger Young, director of career services, has been instrumental in helping the new group get started. Young spent 21 years in the Air Force before he started doing college career service work.

“College is a very different environment (for veterans),” Young said. “Veterans need to mix it up with other students, but they also need to know that there are other people like them they can talk to.”

Members of SUVA are working with campus officials to help make Southwestern more veteran-friendly. For example, Southwestern has changed its graduation requirements so that students who are veterans have their physical education requirements waived. In the future, Young said, Southwestern will look more closely at institutions that veterans have previously earned credit from – such as Community College of the Air Force − to see if the university may be able to accept some of those credits.

SUVA also is raising the visibility of veterans on campus. This year, the organization reinstated the annual Veterans Day Breakfast. The week before Veteran’s Day, SUVA set up a display in the Bishop’s Lounge that had pictures of many of the veterans on campus. They also planted flags in front of the chapel in memory of veterans.

Shannon Johnson, a former Army intelligence analyst, is president of SUVA this year. Johnson is majoring in biology and hopes to go to graduate school for pharmacoeconomics − a new field that seeks to identify problems in the pharmaceutical industry and develop strategies to solve them.

“Historically, veterans could not afford a private school education,” Johnson said. “Recent changes in the GI Bill have allowed us this opportunity, which we are very thankful for. With that being said, veterans and veteran issues are often misunderstood or go unnoticed entirely. SUVA seeks to mitigate issues unique to student veterans, and also advocates awareness of the veteran population.”

SUVA is receiving support from the Georgetown community. Gordon Logan, founder and CEO of Sport Clips, has donated $24,000 to support veterans attending Southwestern. Logan is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and currently serves on the board of the VFW Foundation.

Logan was the guest speaker at the recent Veteran’s Day breakfast that drew 18 students, faculty, and staff who are veterans. He told those attending the breakfast that the greatest challenge facing veterans today is that only a small percentage of Americans are involved in the armed forces and are veterans. Because of the lack of awareness, he said, many veterans face problems integrating back into society.

SUVA presented Logan with a plaque to thank him for his ongoing support for veterans at Southwestern.

Anyone who would like to become involved with SUVA may contact Johnson at johnson6@southwestern.edu.

−Isaac Bernal